The EDA360 vision document says “Today’s most commercially successful systems are application-driven, which means their design has to be done in that context,” so I’m always looking for articles about the status of apps and an article in today’s San Jose Mercury News (Developers see Google’s Android operating system surpassing Apple’s) caught my eye. The article discusses a recent survey jointly conducted by Appcelerator, a vendor that offers an open-source platform for app-development, and research giant IDC. The survey summarizes the recent attitudes of 2363 Appcelerator Titanium development platform users with respect to application development and application targets. The study is very recent—it was conducted in mid September—and it delivers plenty of food for thought. First, the study finds that 72% of developers surveyed say that Google’s Android operating system is “best positioned to power a large number and variety of connected devices in the future.” Only 25% of developers indentified this statement Apple’s iOS, which is used in Apple’s iPhone and iPad. According to the press release on the survey, this preference gap has widened by 10% since June. At the same time, Apple’s iOS continues to lead in preference, with 91% of developers surveyed saying they are “very interested” in the Apple platform. Android still trails with 82% of developers saying they’re “very interested” in developing for that platform.
When asked, 71% of developers said they’re developing consumer apps and 29% said business apps. The top consumer app categories included social networking, entertainment, utilities, games, and lifestyle applications. Top business app categories included productivity, document management, sales force automation, and messaging/communications. Strong vertical applications included finance, retail, and healthcare. Note that developers are currently creating apps primarily for both Apple and Android phones and for Apple’s iPad at this point. However, says the report, Android tablets are “poised for liftoff” with 62% of developers already reporting strong interest in developing apps for that platform and 44% of developers saying they’re very interested in developing apps for Android-based Google TV.
A strong premise in the EDA360 vision is that the intended apps guide the definition of hardware platforms. You can see an example of this in the survey’s summary of camera use in phone platforms. In-phone cameras are used by 58% of the apps being written by the surveyed developers, a use that far exceeds that for photo-sharing services such as Flickr and TwitPic. App developers show a stronger interest in using the in-phone camera for barcode scanning and augmented reality. That finding suggests that even devices designed for end applications other than obvious photographic uses can often make good use of an integrated, low-cost camera. Consequently, the design of the underlying physical platform for these devices may need to accommodate a camera and also would need to include the appropriate drivers, OS bindings, and protocol stacks so that appropriately written apps can make use of the camera.
You can download a copy of thesurvey results, called the “Appcelerator/IDC Q4 Mobile Developer Report,” here.